Today we’d like to introduce you to Jacobine van der Meer.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
My story begins in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where I was very lucky to be born to supportive parents in a country and a time in which there was ample opportunity to roam free as a kid and get a good education. Following high school I studied drawing and painting at The Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam for three years and after a solitary period of painting in a cellar studio with a tiny window, applying for art schools in New York and realizing that I would be working the night shift or end up in debt, I came to the conclusion that to be an artist I first had to be out in the world and explore life. I worked odd jobs and enjoyed Amsterdam in an inspiring DIY time when creativity was bubbling in the squats and on the streets. Through horror movie binging nights with friends I became fascinated with makeup effects and learned how to sculpt, mold, cast and paint prosthetics. Sculpting quickly became my favorite part of this process. I worked for Dutch television and film, on a few bizarre photo shoots and made hyperrealistic human figures for museums.
Portfolio in hand I left for LA in 1998 and started working for special effects shops making prosthetics, human bodies, body parts, and animals, specializing in sculpture and fine-tuning those skills. Through one of those shops, Atlantic West Effects, I made ‘sand people’ for LA artist Dough Aitken’s film Blow Debris and ‘zombie horses’ for New York artist Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 3. At that time LA artist Paul McCarthy was setting up an FX shop for his film Caribbean Pirates and hired me as a sculptor. I fell in love with one of the pirates, actor/filmmaker/artist Emmy Collins and together with sculptor/artist John Weldy we started the experimental music band Brutal Poodle. I worked at Paul’s continuously expanding studio for the next 17 years, as head of the sculpture department and eventually as part-time sculptor, while slowly building up and exhibiting my own body of work and setting up a studio in the desert town of Landers where I had bought property in 2004.
I live and work in the desert full-time since December 2018 and feel so fortunate to be able to finally concentrate on my own work 100%. By taking this road, I have developed a wide variety of skills and are able to work in all sorts of materials, which is now very valuable in the expression of my language. Now, I love the solitary time in the studio. It does help that this studio has big windows to let California’s light in, much better than the dark cellar studio I started in.
Please tell us about your art.
I draw and paint, make collages, sculptures, installations, and videos. I perform improvisational music/noise as The Brutal Poodle, always in costume. It is all related, drawings inform sculptures and vice versa, cut up drawings and photos of the sculptures are material for collages, and sculptures are used in video or performance. When I perform, I am a moving and sounding sculpture.
My work is a personal response to daily observations, I am constantly exploring my inner and outer worlds. From my studio, I can see and hear the live fire training grounds of the 29 Palms Military Base, where soldiers train in a simulated Middle Eastern town with role-playing actors and special effects to prepare for missions overseas. I worked on a couple of art projects with veterans through a local organization called Mil-Tree and hearing their stories of war first hand has deeply affected me, and although these stories are often brutal they also showed me a force of life, an intensity in living. Relating to this is my ongoing series called GAME, which consists of relief sculptures resembling military medals. They are molded and cast sex toys, configured to look like stars or flowers. I cut up military uniforms and rearrange the parts into dynamic, dancing positions. The costumes of power structures become something else. I also make medals for civilians.
The desert can seem hostile, it is a harsh environment. The plants and animals are survivalists, they adapt. Most animals spend a large part of their time below ground and are active above ground when conditions are right. Many plants have effective defense systems like spikes, and seeds of flowering plants lay dormant for many years until there is enough water to germinate. When I walk in the desert every day with my dog I am very aware that I share this space with plants and animals of which some are harmful and can even be deadly like the Mojave green rattlesnake. This alertness makes me feel alive and by learning from my natural surroundings I do not fear them. The more I learn the more wonderful this environment becomes. My latest color pencil drawing ‘Coyote’ expresses this wonder and is part of a new series in which universal and monumental shapes are prominent. I am searching for the essence of my surroundings and sometimes find spontaneous spirituality.
Central in my work is the juxtaposition of the natural and the artificial, I see it as one the biggest issues of our time. I recently started using natural local materials: clay from the wash close by and plant material which I gather on my walks, and combine them in sculptures with the wonderful but often toxic materials that I still work with. As an artist, I feel a responsibility to be aware of and respond to what is going on around me in this often challenging and rapidly changing world. To avoid being overwhelmed or desensitized I regularly go below ground like the desert animals, into my inner world, to digest and to gain energy so I can bring something positive and inspirational to the surface to share.
I will soon have to start phasing out my use of those wonderful synthetic materials…..
Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
Stay true to yourself and don’t be distracted by what seems to be the current trend in that part of the art world which is all about commerce. This eventually changes anyway. If possible try to avoid the debt trap. Up until last year, I have always had part-time jobs to support my art. Ideally, take a job or figure out an income stream which benefits your art somehow, not just financially.
There is always paper and pencil, drawing is such a wonderful and direct way of making art. Artists can get caught up in making large work and/or using expensive materials while struggling with the costs. It can be much harder to sell such work but then again, if that is really what you want to make, go for it and take that risk. I love making large sculptural installations and always figure it out somehow. No matter what, be the artist YOU want to be!
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
The best way to see the work in person is at exhibitions or performative events. I always post such information on my social media pages. I love getting useful feedback, criticism is welcomed, and buying the work will fund future projects.
For sales you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For virtual exploration go to:
The Brutal Poodle performs:
- Website: www.jacobinevandermeer.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jacobinevandermeer/
- Facebook: Jacobine van der Meer
Paul Buck, Claudia Bucher, Jacobine van der Meer